Thursday, November 20, 2008

Preparation & Opportunity= Luck

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. That comes from Seneca, the Roman philosopher who was born in 5 B.C. It'll be worth repeating for another two thousand years, at least." (Page 147, Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture.)

I read Pausch's short book this week, a gift from my Book Angel, John. (Thanks, John!) Pausch is the late Carnegie Mellon computer science professor who penned his lecture (and companion book) when he realized he had just months to live, because of pancreatic cancer. Dying before he hit age 50, and leaving three very young children, Pausch none the less experienced marvelous milestones.

One key to his personal success and happiness was that he achieved his childhood dreams. I'm writing tonight as I think about luck and childhood dreams.

My family, church and Girl Scouts led me early on into a personal identity of Citizen of the World. A childhood dream was that I could help lots and lots of people in need, that I would travel around the globe.

I loved Halloween, not just because I could be an exotic gypsy and eat unlimited chocolates, but because I collected pennies for UNICEF. I loved knowing those coins would buy vaccines and rice for children in faraway lands.

According to UNICEF, "The tradition of 'Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF' began in 1950 in the United States when Philadelphia school children first went door-to-door at Halloween collecting money in decorated milk cartons to help the world's children.

They raised a grand total of $17, kicking off a campaign that has since brought in more than $188 million to provide medicine, better nutrition, clean water, education, emergency relief and other support to children in more than 160 countries."

Another childhood dream was to bake. As a girl, one of my specialties was a kind of fried donut hole called "darned goods." (made with Bisquick and learned at Camp Merrie Woode.) I began making pies in high school with my friend Rachel Cain, and I've never stopped. Apple pies are one my standards, served to both son and husband, upon request, on their birthdays.

I considered Seneca's formula and came up with this:

Preparation: loving children of the world and baking. Working hard, being debt free and able to travel, having a husband who supports my World Citizenship.

Opportunity: my dear friend Sujata, in India, inviting me to work in her new coffee shop this winter; as a baker, with all shop proceeds supporting the poor and homeless of her nation.

Luck: I begin working in Sujata's cafe in late January 2009 in southern India.(How's this for rather astounding? Sujata's son has a PhD from the department Pausch taught in at Carnegie Mellon. I'll have to find out if he took classes from Pausch.)

Yes, this is great and good luck, but it is also something more: A BLESSING. I know I am not simply lucky. I am blessed beyond measure to live this winter in the land I love, devoting myself to others in great need, doing something incredibly fun, with a friend I love dearly. So, Seneca, I want to tamper with your formula. A blessing is what happens when preparation and opportunity meet the desires of the heart.

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